Yes, that's right, from all one of us here at Radiator Blog -- happy anniversary, we're two years old now. In keeping with last year's tradition, here's a "best of" compilation from December 2010 - November 2011 and a bit of commentary with the benefit of hindsight. These were generally the articles that got a high volume of page views / attention from Sunday Papers or Critical Distance or whoever, though I also included some ignored ones because I still think they're decent reads. At any rate, thanks for reading.
GAMES I MADE
- CondomCorps. The prototype is pretty unplayable, but I still want to re-visit the idea of peeping into hotel windows to make sure gay orgies take-off without a hitch. The best part was reading a game studies undergraduate's blog post about it, arguing it was unethical to weaponize sex education like this or something.
- Polonius. An FPS with multiple characters, where you have to eavesdrop on a couple's conversation as they walk around a crowded plaza. I liked the mechanics here and want to come back to this, it just needed some tutorial levels and some more massaging. Based on the film, The Conversation. (collab w/ @eddiecameron)
- FuhFuhFire. Rescue people from a burning building -- or maybe not. I feel like the mechanics here were pretty sound, I just need to redo the level design here and make it prettier.
- Apollo 2. I made a very short FPS in zero hours. I'm pretty satisfied with what it is.
- Super Cult Tycoon 2. Guide your very own cult from a van and a barn to a sprawling complex with Kool-Aid factories and counterfeit wallet exports. Got a ton of coverage on Kotaku, PC Gamer and Indiegames.com. (collab w/ @eddiecameron)
GAMES AND CULTURE
- "On the first person military manshooter and the shape of modern warfare" argues that games like Call of Duty are unethical NOT because someone's going to go on a shooting spree, but because they're making us think war is something you can win.
- First Person Films comes from watching Enter the Void and thinking the first 15 minutes were more interesting than everything else.
- Me, and I think a lot of other people, were disappointed a little with Portal 2 because it was pretty much just a faster horse. A fantastic horse, of course, but still just a horse.
- People are freaking out about Portal 2 level editors being used in schools. Hopefully they won't copy the mistakes of Logic Quest 3D, an obscure edutainment FPS with a built-in level editor -- that is, a warning from 15 years ago.
FORMALIST DESIGN THEORY
- Part 4 of the "Dark Past" series on immersive sims ended with an attempt at reviving Randy Smith's "valence theory" (my word for it) as used in Thief games.
- I apply Chris Crawford's concept of "process intensity" to procedural narrative. The post doesn't really have a point in the end, but it's nice to try to sort out what's happening in the field today, even if we're going to end up failing.
- Here's Dan Pinchbeck's PhD dissertation, summarized in a blog post. The idea to take away is "ludodiegesis," which basically argues that the world tells a story. I like it because it's a very neat shift away from the crassness of "environmental storytelling" and ties back into film studies.
- My close-reading of Mass Effect 1's Noveria demonstrates how I go about analyzing level design. Don't say bullshit like "the blue barrels and leading lines guide the player's eye, blah blah blah" -- that's not how players play games. We need to look at how environments afford gameplay, and then see how we can co-opt those same affordances for a narrative effect.
- Love letter to a bridge is in the same vein. In de_aztec, visuals and mechanics combine into something that's just a really elegant piece of design.
GAMES AND ART
- "It belongs in a museum" argues that games don't belong in museums. Prompted, in part, by Pippin Barr's excellent game, The Artist is Present.
- Butte, Montana. 1973 is a board game about open-pit mining disasters -- and in the end, you'll create your own chemical spill that's problematic to clean-up. I think board games are ripe for a revolution in materials and narrative; let's fight the cold proceduralism of German board games with all our strength.
- Welcome to the Indie FPS is a round-up of 5 people doing cool fun things with first person shooters; I argue they all take their cues from Myst instead of Doom. The most haunting thing is the eerily prescient NYT review of Myst that I unearthed during my brief bit of research.
- There used to be a Valve-sponsored modding community called the VERC Collective that had peer-reviewed articles about design theory / coding stuff. It was really cool. I wish there were researchers archiving the rise and fall of these internet communities -- you can literally trace lineages of game developers and creators from these places. These were our think-tanks.
- In April 2011, I declared the Death of the Mod. We used to think total conversions were the "epitome" of craftsmanship, a "world wonder" of the modding community. Now that notion is more or less dead, replaced with the idea that you're squandering your output if you're not going indie and selling your stuff in a standalone.
- A Closed World was an MIT-Gambit research project to make a game about LGBTQ issues. Me and some other self-identified LGBTQ indie game devs kind of got upset about it.